Atlanta Mayor Rebukes Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp For Opening Businesses: 'We Can't Sit By…While People Die'

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has rebuked Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for reopening businesses such as bowling alleys and nail salons, warning that Georgia could see a sharp rise in coronavirus deaths as a result.

"It's extremely frustrating as a mayor watching where we are as a country," Bottoms told Chris Cuomo during an appearance on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time on Monday.

"As I look at people standing in line for haircuts and to get their nails done, what we are essentially saying in Georgia is, 'Go bowling and we'll have a [hospital] bed waiting on you.' That's not what our approach should be to COVID-19."

Kemp allowed businesses including tattoo parlors, gyms, hair salons, nail salons and bowling alleys to reopen on Friday. On Monday, dine-in restaurant service and movie screenings were free to resume.

“What we are essentially saying in Georgia, is ’go bowling, and we'll have a [hospital] bed waiting on you,’” says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “That’s not what our approach should be to Covid-19.”

— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) April 28, 2020

But Bottoms has repeatedly urged people in the state to stay at home, tweeting Georgia's coronavirus numbers on Friday alongside the message: "If you're getting your nails done right now, please share these noon numbers with your manicurist."

She told Cuomo that "no mayor wants to be at odds with the governor," but she is concerned that hospitals could reach capacity if cases in the state continue to rise.

"Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta is near capacity because people are having strokes and they have diabetes and they have asthma like my four children have. And then you add on top of that, COVID-19," she said.

"Not only did we open nail salons and hair salons and barber shops and tattoo parlors... now we're opening up restaurants and we're taking it even further. Who knows where we're going to be next week?"

Bottoms said business leaders and experts she has spoken to agree that it is "too soon" for Georgia to reopen considering the number of cases of coronavirus are continuing to rise sharply.

President Donald Trump, who reportedly initially expressed support for the move, later told reporters that he disagreed "strongly" with Kemp's decision. CNN reported that members of the White House coronavirus task force convinced the president to change his view.

"Why that rational thinking has not transferred to our governor really continues to baffle me," Bottoms said.

If you’re getting your nails done right now, please share these noon numbers with your manicurist. #StayHomeGeorgia

— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) April 25, 2020

She said her concerns are shared by Randall Woodfin, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama—where Gov. Kay Ivey is set to relax measures soon.

"What I said to Randall is we can't sit by, and he agreed with this, while people die," she said. "We're frustrated and all we really have right now are our voices to continue to push and hammer home to people to please stay home."

Bottoms said she was empathetic to those who were concerned about getting back to work, but said the federal government needed to "do its part" to help those people. "Make it easy for people to put money in their pockets so we can flatten the curve," she said.

She added: "People are ready to go about their day-to-day business, but for each day that we take five steps back, it's gonna send us back even further.

Keisha Lance Bottoms
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is pictured on November 26, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Paras Griffin/Getty Images

"We're not gonna get to the light at the end of the tunnel if we keep turning around and walking backwards. That's what we're doing in this state and that's what I fear is about to happen in Alabama and across any number of states in this country."

Bottoms also noted that Kemp's decision to continue reopening businesses came as the number of cases in Georgia rose by almost 25 per cent, at odds with the White House Task Force guidance for states to first have a 14-day decline in cases.

"That's not a partisan conversation, that's not a racial conversation, those are facts," Bottoms said.

Georgia has more than 24,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and at least 1,000 deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.

COVID-19 coronavirus United States Statista
Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (
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World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

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Mask and glove usage

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  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.